There was once a young Marielito with wondrous olive skin.  His eyes were jet black and burned with an inner fire.  His shoulders were broad and his waist narrow.  His teeth were large, white and straight.  He was tall and stood with a pride some whispered bordered on arrogance.  But this was a slight misrepresentation. El Rey de los Marielitos, as he was called, lived on the side of Hialeah west of Palm Avenue.  His followers, La Pandilla Oeste, gathered offerings from local businessmen, and dealt in illicit powders and herbal medications, carnal social services, and the occasional wagers and loans.  El Rey and his cadres as one worshiped a scar-faced god of local legend, a product of cinema based loosely on the Capone of Chicago mythology.

An older but nearly as regal man led a following with similar interests in the land east of Palm Avenue.  They worshiped an ancient God spoken of only in the dark shadows of night.  The god’s name was Bautista and his central concept was flagrant consumption.

The Chief of Police in Hialeah, Chief Juevosagre, was fond of chasing the two groups around and shaking them down for remuneration.  He presented the activity to local businessmen as crime control and enlisted their money and time in his pursuits.

The businessmen were not ignorant, having seen many of these same activities in pre-Castro Cuba.  So they decided upon a plan to limit their losses.  They hired a bounty hunter of their own to track down as many members of both sides of the Palm Avenue syndicates as humanly possible and deliver them to the Chief, thus effectively emasculating the Chief’s protection racket.

The bounty hunter was ex-CIA and very well-connected and good at his commissioned job.  In a matter of weeks he had locked up in various warehouses across the city a great number of both of the pandillas.  He then went to the Chief and invited him to visit at any time to take in as many or few criminals as needed for that week’s news media release.

The Chief, delighted by the convenience, visited often, gathering huge numbers of suspects one day for a front page spread, and deciding upon fewer arrests other days to maintain a plausible balance.  As time passed this new system came to cost both sides of the Avenue a great amount of money in bail and bribes to release their followers from holding cells.  In this way, the Chief recovered and even surpassed the money lost to the no longer necessary protection of the businessmen. This new arrangement hurt both pandillas deeply financially; but more importantly the great pride of the criminals was injured. So the two powerful leaders decided to meet to talk things over.

On a beautiful, breezy day at the now-defunct Hialeah horse track, El Rey de los Marielitos and his counterpart met over mojitos and contraband Cojiba cigars.  “Padron,” El Rey said. “Many of our people are being incarcerated at great expense to us both. We look bad and recruitment is down. Que pena! Suppose we break through this bounty system and work directly with Chief Juevosagre?  We can offer him as many people as he needs to perpetuate the myth of his greatness, be rid of this hideous bounty hunter, and reduce cost overall, with greater control over our own affairs which have been so disrupted by unexpected arrests.”

The leader of the east side syndicate agreed. “Es una idea con cojones, Capo,” he noted. So a lottery was set up to serve the needs of the Chief and cut out the bounty hunter who was found one night with a mint leaf sprouting from a hole in the side of his head.

El riesgo da vida as it was called continued flawlessly for a long time with the names of all involved in either organization in the lottery box and at risk for being chosen. One day, however, the name of the mistress of the east side leader was chosen at random and she was to be offered up.  Chief Juevosagre had always had an eye for this young beauty and he was eager to take her into his protection for at least one night.  The woman pled her case to her lover who, unbeknownst to her, had taken another mistress more resembling his own wife when she had been younger.  Thus was the innocent woman surprised to hear her lover say “Your number is up.  You go as the rest. Es el riesgo da vida, mi amor.”

Shocked, the woman rushed to the west side and begged El Rey for mercy.  “You are a victim of Latin passion,” he told her.  “I will take your place in the lottery for the sake of divine mercy.” Here is the mysterious wonder of the wicked. In his heart he felt he carried many of the dark scars of sins against his own wife.  He was, after all, un Latino con machismo. This noble gesture of personal sacrifice gave him the illusion of contrition, compensation and repentance.

And so, on the appointed night, Chief Juevosagre was duly appalled to find El Rey and not a beautiful and vulnerable young woman waiting for him in a motel room beside the Miami River off Okeechobee Road.  El Rey, tired of the abuses of the Chief and feeling he could work more effectively with a certain Captain Caribineros who could easily be promoted through election to Chief, dispatched Juevosagre with a single blow from a sugar cane machete.

A controlled war erupted between local law enforcement and the two syndicate groups.  One day the pandilla leaders met again for umo y refrescos.  The leader from the east said “I never saw such kindness and mercy as you showed my ex that night.  Nor such gall and blood-lust you presented the old Chief. You have revealed to me a softer and more subtle side of leadership. Suave, muy suave.”

“Until now,” replied El Rey, and promptly shot his rival between the eyes with a small bore .38. “The good deserve better,” he told the corpse, tapping gently the long ash of his cigar to drop it in the gathering pool of blood.  “And the bad deserve much worse than they get.”